During our fourth big room session we will hear from Ian Henderson, who for 12 years, worked for Message Trust pioneering an Eden project in the most deprived area in the UK, and was the exec director of Mission. Passionate about young people, Ian has spent his life working with youth and youth workers. Two years ago he founded ‘Naked Truth’ – a project aiming to open eyes and free lives from the damaging impact of pornography. As this is a live blog please excuse typos and spelling mistakes!
He didn’t want to leave the message, but sometimes you have to be disciples, you have to go to where God leads you. Asking everyone to stand, and do a Graham Norton moment, stay standing if you can remember the name of your primary school teacher – most people standing; stay standing if you can remember your nursery school teacher – many sit; stand if you had a crush on your teacher!
Remember very little about school or nursery – his nursery teacher was Mrs Mop – like a character from a children’s book, and remembered painting, not numbers or reading! Fairy bottle of paint squirted onto a paper plate, scribble all over it and give to his mum! Now with kids he understands that mum is thinking “painting every flipping day”, shows puke on sugar paper, she asks the “what is it question”, and he says “it is you!”. All she could see is mess, her friends think hmm, maybe Ian is musical! Ian sees the portrait of his mum, a fire engine. It is easy to see mess, the problems, the things that need changing, we’ve spoken about what things aren’t right in our children’s lives, but God asks can you see more.
Ezekiel having been placed in a valley of dry bones, bashing against his legs, representing the hope of Israel, their hope has gone there is no life left in them. Represents the finality, the defeat of life. Ezekiel asks can these bones live – only you know Lord – I haven’t got a clue. SOmetimes I’m not sure, I see mess, I’m not sure if I can see more. John the Baptist one minute is saying to a crowd there’s the Messiah, check him out blood! But later in prison, after Jesus hasn’t played the game the way he thought – John stayed away from alcohol, Jesus turns it into wine, John who stays away from the vipers, Jesus who does dinner with the worst of the worst. Even John wasn’t sure. If you have mess, if you’re not sure, that’s fine.
But sometimes we get a hint, a sense of what if. What if they can, what if there is hope, what if there is resurrection. Mary, all hope is gone, her hope is in burial cloths behind a burial stone, he turns up too late, but Jesus says I am the resurrection. There is another chapter to this. Sometimes we have to be able to see more, God says see I am doing a new thing, I am bringing life to the desert – where you see dust, he sees destiny, where you see mess, he sees more.
Malcolm Gladwell writes about David and Goliath and says maybe it isn’t such an uneven battle – David is brave, courageous, and reliant on God – but also David saw something that others didn’t see. He saw Goliath as a 9 foot giant who was huge and intimidating, but he has his limitations, and everyone says they have to play by Goliath’s rules. Goliath wants arm-to-arm combat, but David says we don’t have to do it that way.
About 4-5 years he was speaking at an event, his phone was buzzing, had a voicemail from his mum, saying you need to come to our house now, Dad has been arrested. Dad was a Christian leader, CEO of a charity, Christian youth leader. Didn’t know why he had been arrested, eventually find out he had indecent images of children on his computer. Dads when released on bail says that they’re not that bad, it’s not this, it’s that. What comes out is he had had a 20 year battle and addiction with pornography. A year later dad is sentenced, during that year he is diagnosed with severe cancer, with months to live, so when in court listen to the judge saying he is guilty, but has a suspended sentence because he had two weeks to live. He’s taken to a hospice, and two weeks later dies.
Six months later Ian is reading Proverbs 9, where wisdom is described as a woman, where she yells at anyone saying if your lfe is a mess, lost, come to my house I’ve got a great feast, “leave your ways and live”. Later on it describes another woman, folly. Want to be wisdom’s shout in the places of influence. Is it music, politics, media – praying over these issues. Folly lives in the highest place so Ian wants to get there, she sits on the steps of her house, and says to those who are lost, come to my house “because stolen water is sweet, and food eaten in secret is delicious”. Then it says “what he guests do not know is in her house is death.” Read it 1 year after his dad had died. When his dad was arrested he said his life was over – his work, his reputation was struggling, and then he quite literally died, but he had died before in his mind – he was like the bones. He listened to folly, to the lie that said what is eaten in secret is delicious – it’s not a lie – it’s a bait and switch.
Start to feel God is putting something on his heart to do something. Could ignore this, but don’t feel happy about that. Not a pleasant place to be. Why does he have to do the porn thing. Not a therapist, or a doctor. It should be other people. But when you are a disciple you go when God is leading you. You want to be wisdom but folly is also in the marketplace shouting her head off and you need to do something about that.
Goliath wanted a punch up, David said it didn’t have to be that, that he uses a slingshot was genius. Armies had those slingshot men like archers, it was a warfare tactic, but the people didn’t see it. David says it doesn’t have to be like that. If porn is a Goliath, what is it that porn does, how does it want us to contact us, and how can we do something different. Porn uses secrecy and shame – its two big punches. Is there a way that we can do something counter to those two things – to stop secrecy and shame.
You know the story of the Emperor’s new clothes – a man who is vain, wearing the newest fashions, and some conmen know there is an opportunity. They offer him the best clothes but they are also invisible to those who are stupid. He gives them some money, and they get the sewing machines out. He sends the Prime Minister who he thinks is very clever. They show him some of the outfits, the PM panics, can’t see anything but knows he has to keep that a secret as doesn’t want to look stupid. Tells the Emperor everything is fine and good. Eventually the men come to the Emperor and bring in all these clothes. The Emperor panics, can’t see anything, but his PM could, so now he can’t confess that he can’t see anything as he would look incompetent. So he says he loves them, and tries them. He arranges for a procession to show off his new clothes, everyone has heard the rumour, and so everyone is thinking it isn’t right but no one wants to be the one to say it isn’t right, apart from a child who says the Emperor is walking around with his tackle out – paraphrasing slightly!
One of the big challenges was how do you open peoples eyes to something they don’t want to talk about. 1 in 4 pastors will look at porn today, 25% of this room is struggling with looking at porn. How do you help people talk about that. No one wants to be the person to admit there’s a problem. It takes courage to be the child who says there’s a problem, who says I don’t care if you think I’m stupid.
The clothes was a con across the whole city, how do we as a city share that, someone somewhere is making a load of money about nudity, it’s okay if Rhianna is talking about S&M in her videos, don’t want to be a prude. We know it’s not okay but we’re not very good at talking about it amongst ourselves let along saying to society have we got a problem here. We need to point it out. When 4.4 Billion hits per month for one website, we have a problem. Reading something yesterday that was showing the spikes of porn use at significant times across the world, Christmas Day is low, but the next day is high.
Let’s stop talking about it as our problem, and talk about it as a young people’s issues. The average age to see hard core porn is 11 years old, 1 in 3 10 year olds have seen porn, 18% of 11 year old boys have seen rape online, 32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online. We have got to do something. Let’s ask that question can these bones live. Martin Luther King 50 years ago painted a picture of what could be, he described something more. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to write a better story, to consider what the future could be, for whatever God has put on your heart to change. What does it look like if a nation doesn’t think it is ok, what does it mean, how does it change things, start to picture it. It means all sorts of things, not long ago no one knew what Alpha was, loads of churches run Alpha, it is brilliant, church has accepted this as something to deal with this issue. want there to be a situation where every church is running groups to help people where they are struggling with sex addiction and porn, not to wag a finger but to help and welcome. Young people not to be trapped by this anymore, it own’t have that impact on their life. They will be free, it’s not too late. Not wrapped up in burial cloths behind a stone, and even if it is, there is a Jesus who can call them out. It can change. Society has seen massive things that has been accepted change, but it often started with the church standing up.
In Liverpool there is a slavery museum, you read about great men in the city of Liverpool who built housing, provided schooling, set out mission agencies, and then it says this individual made all his money from the slave trade – how is this possible – because he was so ingrained in society. For too long porn has been so ingrained in our society it is difficult to see that it needs to and it can change.
50 years ago or more one scientist discovered that smoking gave you lung cancer. He wasn’t celebrated, his research was covered up, it took until he was dead before his research was published, then it took 50 years of court battles to acknowledge that it is harmful, and only now is society beginning to realise that. It can take a long time. It might take 50 years but there would be a time in society where people look back and say can’t believe we did something so harmless.
Yesterday Kate spoke about John 10:10, it reminds him of Louise Johnston a granny from Wolverhampton, who during the riots, realised her hair salon was under threat, looting and mobs were going into all the shops. Most people hid behind the counter in those shops. Louise Johnston cares, she stands outside her building, as thieves come to destroy her shop, she says “you will not have my shop!”. The people look at her and think ok and move on to smash up the shop next door!
You care about your young people, you’re not hiding behind the counter. This generation has unregulated, anytime, anywhere access to porn, it isn’t soft porn, what is illegal to sell in a sex shop is available online freely. There is a thief that is coming to destroy your young people, it is trying to destroy their identity, their lives, their futures. Not every young person will become his dad, but some will. A guy said he can’t have a relationship anymore as he only gets aroused by violent sex, he doesn’t want to hurt someone so he can’t have a relationship.
Stand up and say “you will not have my youth group” we have to take a stand. You cannot afford to worry about yourself, hiding behind a counter, you cannot afford to say it is too embarrassing to walkabout, it is attacking your young people, it isn’t the only thing, self-harm, drug abuse, alcohol, there’s loads of things the thief uses to destroy them. The point is no one else is going stand and say no – it is difficult, you have to be the person who comes up with a plan like David who refuses to fight in the way that they want to fight. We have to do something, we cannot ignore it anymore.
Set up Naked Truth project, might not get to it if you have filters on your internet. Today launched a whole load of free resources for people who are struggling with porn, and a youth workers field guide, lesson plans for schools. You need to start to do something, we can’t avoid it anymore.
I believe the bones can live, I believe it is possible, seeing people who have been trapped in years of addiction coming free, some of the neuroscience shows it is possible – especially as a teenager with the elasticity of the brain. It is possible but we have to do something about it.
Taking a moment to consider how we can be Louise Johnston, but for some people the main reason is because we are battling that ourselves, but God loves you, porn operates in shame, until the lie is revealed it is really difficult to bring change, we have to open eyes before we can free lives. For some we want to give you an opportunity to stop hiding, to not allow Folly’s lie that secrecy is the offer – it is a con – keeping it secret is what brings the death – you have to make it open. Know it is incredibly scary, know when people do it they say everything changed from that moment on, but it is a very scary stop.
Stay standing if you have a problem with porn, if you sit down do so with your eyes closed. Want to honour you for your honesty and bravery – want to speak freedom and life into the lives of these people, pray that you will set them free, a hunger to pursue freedom, that they will no longer have an excuse, that they will become porn free, that they will not be full of self-doubt and guilt, but they will discover the purposes that you have for their life. Thank you that you breathe life into dead bones, even though that feels impossible now, pray that they will discover that truth.
Who do you talk to? You need to know who is with you in this, you need to talk with someone, you need to continue the openness, not standing up in church about it, but find one or two people to talk to about it, and download some of the resources from The Naked Truth project, but also encourage you to pray here at conference, and so ditch the seminar and pray with some others.
In this room there was complete brutal honesty, there was life changing things happening with them but that we also change how they can work with their young people. When we want to see change sometimes there is personal cost, moving from Essex to Manchester, giving up the job we love, not being paid as much – will you do whatever it takes to be a disciple for God – committed to change, standing up against the thief, showing there is life, being brave.